Eric Martin is an excellent pass-rushing athlete who played for Nebraska in his college days. However, his NFL outlook could constitute a position switch. He's a quick, strong and athletic player who would benefit from a move to an outside linebacker and defensive end hybrid role. He should be taken late in the draft as a rotational player and project for a team needing one.
Explore what makes Eric Martin a potential NFL player here:
+ Martin has great athleticism and good size for an outside linebacker in both 3-4 and 4-3 sets.
+ Rushing the passer is a true strength for Martin.
+ He's a very secure tackler and delivers hits with good pop.
+ He shows good hand usage for a defensive end, but it would be great at linebacker.
- He was never used at linebacker and always had his hand in the dirt compromising his potential in college.
- He was rarely used in coverage and therefore is very unknown there.
- There are times when his size becomes a huge disadvantage against the run, and he gets blocked out of plays.
While a team could fall in love with his athleticism and take him earlier, his play on the field says that he's worthy of a sixth- or seventh-round pick at most. He will likely be taken at some point in the draft, but if he goes before the third day, it will be a bad pick.
Tools ( + )
While Martin is average sized for a 4-3 outside linebacker at 6'1", 237 pounds, he would be considered undersized for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He posted some of the best times for any linebacker in the 40-yard dash (4.53 sec), three-cone (6.69 sec) and short shuttle (3.97 sec) (h/t NFLDraftScout).
His speed on the field is ridiculously good, though, and there's no reason for him to play as a defensive end with his hand in the dirt except for on third downs with how quick and strong he is. His shorter frame helps with leverage, and he is able to convert his speed into power very effectively.
Intangibles, Character and Injuries
Eric Martin seems like a pretty normal person off the field with just one citation on his record for failure to report backing into a parked vehicle. Martin was also never suspended for off-the-field issues.
He has missed a game for an on-field hit, but it was just a one-time thing. He was also a game captain for the Cornhuskers and a leader on the field. As far as injuries are concerned, Martin rarely had any outside of a back injury during his senior season.
System ( - )
In college, Eric Martin was used primarily as a 4-3 defensive end. He was rarely used in coverage and was told to set the edge and rush the passer. While he was effective in this role, it makes it hard to believe that he wasn't asked to do more from a two-point stance. With his athleticism, he could have been an exceptional linebacker if given a shot there in the college ranks.
Pass Coverage ( - )
Pass coverage isn't the key of Eric Martin's game. However, it's more due to inexperience than actual talent. He rarely had any dropbacks into coverage, and when he did do anything in coverage, it was on screens and on plays in the flats. He isn't effective at getting his hands up in the passing game on pass rushes either.
Pass Rush ( + )
As far as pass rush is concerned, this is easily the strongest part of his game. He can use his smaller, quicker frame similar to Robert Mathis of the Colts. He gets great leverage on bigger linebackers and can convert his speed into power effectively in a bull rush.
He reads blocking schemes effectively and can create pressure from either side of the field. He would be a very unique fit if he could transfer his abilities with his hand in the dirt into a more standing role. It would allow the NFL team who brings him in to play him in both an end and linebacker spot.
Against the Run ( + and - )
He sets the edge effectively on either side of the ball and uses his leverage to push the tackles that he goes up against back into the play.
However, he tends to overpursue at times and doesn't have the discipline to stick with the zone read effectively. Other than that, he's a very good defensive end against the run, and as a linebacker, he could learn the patience and discipline it takes to be even better.
Tackling ( + )
Eric Martin is about as sure of a tackler as any player in the draft. He also shows ability to knock the ball out of the opposing players' hands and hits like a Mack truck. He rarely misses any tackles when he goes one-on-one with a ball-carrier. Expect him to have the same kind of success as a linebacker in the pros tackling players due to the pop that he can deliver.
Use of hands ( + )
There's two words that come to mind when watching Eric Martin's hand usage: violent and intelligent.
He plays games with the offensive linemen he engages with and uses the great leverage to his advantage. His speed-to-power conversion is shown in his hands more than anywhere else as he can bull rush and rip better than any player in this year's draft at linebacker.
Future Role and Scheme Versatility
Martin projects best as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 outside linebacker who would be in a heavy blitzing role that on third downs could put his hand in the dirt as an end. Ideally, he fits in well in a multiple front and formation defensive scheme where he will continually get after the quarterback and run blitz most of the time. He'll also be used on special teams, which was his true strength in college.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.